What are Emissions Regulations?

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  • Written By: Leonardo Von Navorski
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Emissions regulations, also called carbon emissions standards, are a series of rules and guidelines for which vehicles must meet to be sold and legally driven on the road. There are usually different emissions regulations for different types of vehicles, such as passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and small engine vessels such as motorcycles, scooters, and lawn mowers. There is no worldwide standard for emissions regulations, although such a standard has been proposed in various trade policies across the world. The United States and the European Union (EU) tend to have the strictest emissions standards. Most developing countries have limited or no emissions standards.

Emissions standards attempt to regulate the production of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Also taken into consideration are other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide and a handful of hydrocarbons that are primarily produced and emitted during an engine’s combustion cycle. These gases are generally referred to as carbon emissions.

There are several reasons for emissions standards. The primary reason is a global concern about climate change. Some scientists believe that the Earth’s climate is warming and that greenhouse gases are a major contributor to man-made climate change. By setting emissions standards, countries intend to slow the effect of such change.


Another reason for emissions regulations is a concern about air quality. In many large cities, such as Beijing and Los Angeles, a relatively large population in a small area combined with the population’s use of automobiles have led to air quality problems. A common cause for concern is smog, a word derived from the words "smoke" and "fog." Smog is a collection of emissions that can cause health problems such as bronchitis. It does not refer to a specific combination of pollutants.

Although one generally thinks of vehicles when thinking of emissions standards, the term is a catch-all that can apply to any regulation set forth to combat pollutants. Emissions regulations for industrial applications are also common in the developed world. These regulations can apply to things such as coal-producing factories or various types of factories that burn fossil fuels.

Critics of emissions regulations argue that such regulations are too costly to implement and involve governments overstepping their boundaries and hindering industry and business. Some critics also might be skeptical of climate change or man's effect on it, which contributes to their wariness regarding emissions regulations. Proponents of emissions regulations argue that such regulations are vital to ensuring the health and well-being of citizens, particularly when it comes to clean air. These proponents also tend to be concerned about climate change and its potential impact on the Earth in the future.


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